The Center for International Private Enterprise is creating opportunities for members of the Sahelian private sector to discuss the challenges and opportunities they currently see in the region and advance their recommendations for the Alliance Sahel General Assembly.
On February 11, CIPE co-organized a high-level side event to the G5 Sahel General Assembly in Ndjamena Chad with Alliance Sahel. The General Assembly is the annual meeting between government representatives of the G5 Sahel (representing Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, Mali, and Mauritania) and Alliance Sahel (representing European Union countries and international development banks) that helps set priorities for collaboration in the coming year.
More than 140 participants took part in a rich panel discussion with nine entrepreneurs from the region. Panelists included Layla Camera, Founder and CEO of Sahel Invest Funding and Mossadeck Bally, Founder and CEO of the international AZALAI Hotel chain. The Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, and President of the G5 Sahel General Assembly, Arancha Gonzalez Laya also joined the event with the Mauritanian Economic Minister, and President of the G5 Sahel Ministerial Council, Ousmane Kané. The discussion aimed to inform the regional economic agenda and collaboration. It prioritized, i) youth employment and entrepreneurship, ii) access to finance and iii) economic transformation through digitalization and industrialization in the Sahel.
The private sector-led conversation was welcomed by leaders from the G5 Sahel and Alliance Sahel alike. “The opportunity is timely and needed to prioritize public action” Minister Kané said. This sentiment was echoed by the Chair of the Alliance Sahel, who stated “We have no choice but to promote the private sector, as regional economic development depends on it.”
The panelists’ work prioritized the following five ideas:
- Invest in human development through education as well as professional and technical training;
- Establish a G5 Sahel industrial development strategy and revise national industrialization and taxation policies in order to have a favorable business environment;
- Considering the importance of entrepreneurship for women and youth, establish specific dialogue platforms to study the challenges facing women and youth that are able to propose solutions, develop support programs and mobilize partners to support youth and women entrepreneurs;
- Promote the economic participation of small and medium sized businesses by increasing their access to public contracts, providing adaptable financing, and developing strong support ecosystems to nurture innovation;
- Support national governments building infrastructure that closes existing gaps and make the region more attractive and competitive as an investment destination.
Given the dominance of informal sector and micro-enterprises in the countries of the G5 Sahel, and the impact of these firms on the welfare of vulnerable groups, participants also called upon the authorities to invest more in protecting them and supporting their growth as a way to fight poverty.
The issue of gender equality and women’s economic empowerment was a recurring theme across panelists’ recommendations, particularly those of Mr. Bally of the AZALAI Group (Mali) who stated that “young girls’ education is vital to any progress in the Sahel.”
The importance of supporting a favorable investment climate and business enabling environment was repeatedly highlighted by speakers, including one panelist stated, “the issues in the Sahel have nothing to do with the rough climate conditions or the security crises; it has everything to do with the absence of favorable ecosystem to promote free private enterprise.”
Mr. Sekou Nana Bourema, an entrepreneur, was pleased to share his ideas and concluded the discussion by saying “we appreciate what CIPE does for the youth in the Sahel and we wish CIPE and Alliance Sahel will continue to give us a platform to be heard.”
The event was closed by remarks from the Unions of Chambers and Employer Associations of the G5 Sahel along with Minister Gonzalez Laya, representing the Alliance Sahel General Assembly. The Minister shared that she appreciated the results of the event stating, “the inputs of the discussion are critical for the donor community and the Sahel states to reach their development targets.”
In the countries of the G5 Sahel, CIPE is working with the Sahel Business Coalition (Le Coalition Economique au Sahel) to elevate the voices of local business in security and economic policy to support regional peace and prosperity. A non-profit affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and core institute of the National Endowment for Democracy, CIPE currently implements 130 programs in 50 countries around the world.